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Fall 1987, Volume 4.2


Walter McDonald

Walter McDonald (Ph.D., U of Iowa) is Paul W. Horn Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Texas Tech University. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Atlantic, APR, and The Kenyon Review. His book, The Flying Dutchman (Ohio State U Press, l987), won the George Elliston Poetry Prize. Another book, After the Noise of Saigon, won the l987 Juniper Prize and will be published by the U of Massachusetts Press this year.


Ranching in the San Juan

Never a mare dies
but woods and men are angry.
Busy yourself with dust
and shake stiff feathers
outside in sleet-wind
whipping from the north.
Only a mare lies down
and delivers in darkness,
then runs for miles
until a neighbor finds her,
wild-eyed, alone and bleeding.
These hills make any man
bitter, digging
and pitching out stones
for a hole. Owls fly over
in the night, inquiring.
Shelter the colt
and let the wolves be wary.


On a Screened Porch in the Country

I'm sleeping off August
on the porch swing,
you're propped against a post,
sketching. Dulled
by work and cicadas,
I feel your charcoal
slice me better than I am,
a deft excision here,
a tuck to tighten skin
below the eyes. I rise
creaking like old canvas
to bring you whatever
you still see, after I stretch
and hobble on a bone spur
and stiff knees to the rail.


Living Near Oak Creek Dam

After rains,
dry riverbanks in hardscrabble
bloom bluebonnets.
If crops are cotton,
early snow. If sunflowers,
yellow fire.
Hawks sidle
overhead, hoping for one hop,
one hop of a rabbit.
Lower, slower, another
claims it all, forked tongue
flicking mine, mine.


The Way a Dog Leaves Home

Bury the dog and let raw bones
be witness: we weren't alone.
Two lone people can't keep a dog
indoors forever, even with a larder
well-stocked for winter. Trucks
are always on the road, and strays
bark often on the other side.
Fences alone won't keep a good
grown pet at home. Dusk
is the time for roaming,
sun cooling down, trucks roaring
along without lights, something
across the road too tempting,
female, or strutting male
wetting all trees and boasting.....